PREPARING FOR THE WORST: Limo crashes always seem to focus on the chauffeur.
The recent crash of a limo-bus in Indianapolis has left one person dead and once again placed a spotlight on our industry with questions surrounding the role of the “limo-driver.”
I watched a TV news report taped outside the hospital in which a reporter proudly announces, “We have just learned the name of the limo driver” as if that was sensational news.
It seems as though the questions are always the same. What kind of driving record does he have? Was the vehicle insured? Were drugs or alcohol involved? There is so much speculation that it is always the fault of “the limo driver.”
The term “limo driver” in itself is offensive. It is like calling a letter carrier a mail truck driver or a paramedic an ambulance driver. While I am sure there are a great number of “limo drivers” out there, most are professional chauffeurs.
When a plane crashes, you do not hear the media talk about whether or not the pilot had a license or whether the plane was insured or not. There is no immediate speculation that drugs or alcohol were a factor. Of course those things come up during the investigation days later but not like our industry where fingers are pointed immediately and questions raised about the ability and training of the chauffeur.
I have personally served as an expert witness in the industry to several law firms around the nation. In that capacity, I have shared with the jury what is considered typical training and behavior of a chauffeur and whether their actions contributed or caused death or injury to a passenger in the limousine. I can tell you the expectations of the chauffeur are huge. His post-accident behavior and assistance to passengers is always questioned, although he may be injured himself. In almost every case I have been involved with, attorneys for the plaintiffs always question the chauffeur’s actions.
This is such a big issue that I already have a prepared statement ready for the day it may happen that I may face the media. My statement is a “fill-in-the-blanks” statement that basically says, “John Doe has been employed by Limousine Scene since (insert month/year of hire). He received 40 hours of classroom training before driving any passengers in addition to behind the wheel training. Limousine Scene regularly performs random drug and alcohol testing of all employees and Doe was last tested on (Insert date) and found to have no trace of drugs or alcohol in any random test conducted”.
If there is anything that we as an industry can learn from this particular accident, it is that the passengers were crushed beneath luggage and loose seats, according to initial reports. This should remind us all to make sure heavy luggage is properly stored and the all seats are firmly connected to the vehicle.
Ironically, while this vehicle is being called a limo-bus, it was not operated by a limousine service, but by a rental hall. There may not be any oversight to this vehicle at all since it is not operated by a limousine company. The rental hall probably doesn’t charge for the actual use of this vehicle, but rather provides it as part of the rental hall agreement.
— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
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